Oct 30, 2021

The Popcorn Tree

The true name for this tree is the Chinese Tallow.  (Triadica Sebifera).  This tree native to Asia. was first brought into this country by Ben Franklin!  Who knew?  Not me. 

Ben Franklin wrote a letter in 1772 to Noble Wimberly Jones of the Georgia Colony. In the letter he wrote, "I send also a few seeds of the Chinese Tallow Tree, which will I believe grow and thrive with you. Tis a most useful plant."

Mama had one of these trees and we always loved to watch the bees, birds, and butterflies enjoy it, but the main attraction was to see the popcorn!  That's what she/we called it anyway.  It does look like popcorn doesn't it?  

So, Mama's tree had a baby to pop up beneath it.  Gwen and I dug and dug to remove it.  Finally, we did get it up with a good root. I brought it home planted it here and that's the story behind this beauty.  It now has much sentimental value to me since Mama is now gone. I don't want to cut it down even though there are reasons I probably should.

To get right down to it this tree is invasive to South Carolina and has many bad traits which I'll share with you today.  Well, the good and the bad I'll share.


Very Invasive. That seems to be the worst problem with this particular tree. (my tree hasn't produced any offspring in 15 years so thankfully in that way it isn't spread. Hopefully not too many seed pods are spread.)
The tree is toxic to humans and wildlife.  The leaves and fruit are toxic to cattle. 
It isn't good for the soil it produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants.  
It can continue to bear seeds for up to 100 years.  
Birds transport some seeds but the main source of movement is water.  It can float downstream to colonize on streambanks and riverbanks.
Wrecks Eco- Systems 
Clemson University Invasive Plants of South Carolina

One thing I can think of that is for sure worse is the Kudzu and the Kudzu Bug the bug eats so that is good but it also feeds on soybeans, not a good thing. video and Clemson article
Ugh! The vine that ate the South!


It has many changes that I like.  
It is pretty very colorful at every stage. The tree trunk and limbs offer an almost artistic look most times.  The green leaves are brilliant in color and the hanging blooms are so graceful and pretty. In Autumn/Fall the colors are magnificent!
The bees are crazy about the blooms!  
BeeKeepers love it because it is a wonderful honey plant!
Birds just love going to it and I think we even have had Hummingbird nests in ours.  They flock to it yearly.  
Butterflies surround it as well.
Charleston and other Southern areas have long been making decorative wreaths from the colorful foliage and 'popcorn' seeds.  
Use and possible use of the Chinese Tallow:
Research toward making Biodiesel Fuel has been done.  Soaps, candles, and wax paper are made from the waxy seeds and it is a source of glycerin. It is a substitution for lard and is used in cocoa butter production credit  
*note* I do not advise taking it upon yourself to make any of these things mentioned above on your own.  Processing for such things is unknown to the average individual and remember it is toxic to humans and cattle.*

SOUTH CAROLINA  advice for good replacements Eastern Redbud or Red Mulberry 

It was very windy on the day I shot this little video but the bees were swarming!
Feeding the bees!
More honey for somebody!


This is how the tree looked in June with the long blooms that the bees love so much!

Fall color
The small tree in line with the Popcorn Tree is a little Dogwood in between two Live Oaks
Hope you've enjoyed the tree talk

Below is my new High Wheel Cultivator
I bought it from Lehman's
The plot below is one I'm fixin' to put some strawberry plants on
My plow took a while to come in and it is raining
But I'll soon get them in.

Sharing more color Chuck got these flowers from Sam's Wholesale
They lasted for weeks!

I'll leave you today with a king of a cat washing and enjoying the kid's pumpkins

Until next time...

What is a Chinese Tallow Tree

Southern Living:  Chinese Tallow Popcorn Tree 

Honey Bee article


  1. I have a Tallow tree that I have grown from a volunteer seed for probably 20 plus years. It grows on my ditch bank and I intend to cut it back about 8 feet all over to sort of bonzi it. Over the years I have trimmed it and it already has the look but I have neglected it for 6 years and want to get it below the power lines. My question is… what would be my plan of action as to not damage the tree. I want to do it now but I’m worried that I might have missed my window of optimal timing- 3-6-23 any suggestions TY Cecilia.

    1. Hi,
      I'm very sorry but i just don't know and would hesitate to take a guess.
      Perhaps you can find out more information online. I'll look too because now you have me wondering.